Gordon Brown has been coming under fire this week for his behaviour both past and present. The Sun blamed the prime minister for the decision, announced by health secretary Alan Johnson, to scrap six contracts for independent sector treatment centres. The £100m compensation to the dropped companies ‘could have built two children’s hospitals, or hired 4,000 nurses’, it argued. His decision was ‘foolish’, it said, as the ‘NHS needs competition to drive up standards’.
Which sounded rather like what Tony Blair was carefully not saying about his successor in the first of three instalments of the BBC One documentary The Blair Years, on Sunday. No matter, as there were plenty of other talking heads, including former health secretary Alan Milburn, to say it for him.
The Sunday Times revealed, as an example of Mr Brown’s ‘tight grip on ministers’ announcements’, that in July an official was sent to ‘chide’ Alan Johnson for agreeing to a Today programme interview before an official announcement. But ‘it turned out that Brown had misheard the radio announcer and it was in fact an interview with Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent, who had just been released after four months as a hostage in Gaza’.
Probably a good job, then, that according to the News of the World, GMTV host Fiona Phillips turned down the public health minister’s job now held by Dawn Primarolo. The paper said it was because it paid£400,000 less - but perhaps the freedom to speak freely to the nation over its breakfast meant too much to her.